Indiana Daily Student

When the joke's on you

I was driving my car the other day, minding my own business, when I was reminded why people should not only be required to have a license to drive but a license to speak. While doing absolutely nothing wrong, I was startled when a man in a minivan yelled into my window, "Crazy Asian! Learn to drive!"\nAll I could do at that moment was laugh, but eventually it started getting to me: Why should I have to put up with this stuff?\nThe truth is that I've been dealing with stereotypes and racial comments all my life. I don't know if it's become easier to deal with them, or that I've become numb from all the times I've been told, "Laugh it off; don't be so sensitive; ignore." It's easy to look back at the kids on the playground that pulled their eyes tight and called me "slant eyes" and disregard the thought because kids don't "really" think.\nBut the problem is that many times, neither do so-called "mature" adults. A few weeks ago, I was caught off-guard when one of my mom's friends made a racial comment toward me. I know he's not a racist, but he just didn't think. So there I was, that same 7-year-old by the jungle gym telling myself, "Laugh it off; don't be so sensitive; ignore." And the difference between then and now? About 14 years and a few bad haircuts. It still hurts the same.\nI think the problem with casual racism is that on the outside it seems innocent, like drinking tequila. It seems harmless enough, but you don't know the damage until it's too late, and the bad memories last longer than any hangover. Many people will claim there is no prejudice behind their comments, but I find myself asking when is it that jokes cross the line into insult? It's not an easy question to answer.\nIn a society where political correctness makes people dance lightly around conversations as not to offend anyone, it's hard to make a claim as to what is casual racism and what is a lighthearted comment. So here is my simplified solution: Think. Think about the comments and jokes you make about race. Think if your remarks might offend someone that laughs on the outside but is disappointed and hurt on the inside. \nI know some of you might be taking this as just another minority ranting about racism -- can't those minorities take a joke? The truth is that I've been trying to laugh off casual racism for as long as I can remember, but honestly, I am tired of being offended and tired of playing deaf to ignorance and stupidity. \nI suppose I'll be dealing with some form of casual racism my whole life, but -- call me an optimist -- I think there's still a little hope out there. My mom's friend, after realizing how his comment had hurt me, ended up apologizing to an Asian golfing buddy for 15 years of "harmless" racial remarks. His friend told him it had bothered him all that time, but he had never said anything. So maybe there is hope for change, one day at a time, one person at a time.

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